Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Saanich Inlet group might do its own environmental study of quarry project

The Saanich Inlet Protection Society says it has received no guarantees that the province will do an environmental review of a quarry project
The Bamberton foreshore and quarry site as seen from a Willis Point. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Saying it doesn’t trust the government to do the job, the group that had been pushing for an environmental review of the Bamberton quarry expansion says it is considering launching its own cumulative-effects analysis of the project on the Saanich Inlet.

The Saanich Inlet Protection Society, which had pressed the province to do an environmental review of the quarry expansion near Mill Bay, said despite vague promises the environment would be top of mind as the project is considered for approval, they’ve been given no assurances that any kind of study of the inlet will be forthcoming.

“We haven’t had any communication from the Water, Land and Resource Ministry about this, but we have been contemplating whether we might actually try and launch a cumulative-effects analysis ourselves,” said society vice-president Michael Simmons. “We don’t trust the government to do it. There doesn’t seem to be any urgency to it.”

Simmons said the organization, which has grown significantly over the past year during the campaign to do an environmental review of the quarry, has people living on the Saanich Peninsula who are scientists, many of them marine scientists, and it might be feasible to do it themselves.

Eric Falkenberg Poetz, president of the society, said it would be a massive undertaking for a group their size. “But everybody wants it,” he said, noting they have had overwhelming support during the campaign from the municipalities around the Saanich Inlet, the Saanich Peninsula First Nations and thousands in the community.

The society believes the impact of the Malahat First Nation’s plans to increase the size and production of its existing quarry, extend its dock on Saanich Inlet and expand a soil-deposit site will harm and contaminate the inlet. That was why it pushed for the environmental review.

Last month, Environment Minister George Heyman refused, saying the quarry expansion would instead undergo an enhanced review through the Mines Act permitting process.

The enhanced permit process was to include ongoing consultation with the Environmental Assessment Office, technical review by geotechnical, geoscience and reclamation specialists, and further engagement with First Nations and the public.

At the time, Heyman said concerns raised about the risks to the sensitive and unique Saanich Inlet ecosystem would be addressed by the enhanced permit amendment review process, coupled with a cumulative-effects analysis to be developed in consultation with First Nations and the assessment office.

The Saanich Inlet Protection Society believes that kind of cumulative-effects analysis is a poor substitute for an environmental assessment. And it points out they have yet to hear any detail about what the study will look like, when it will start and who will be involved.

“It’s just a big blank. None of the ministries knows about it,” Falkenberg Poetz said.

Falkenberg Poetz also noted that so far the enhanced permitting process has not been defined by the Ministry of Environment for either the Forests Ministry or the Energy and Mines Ministry.

“All they’ve done is call to say it’s going to happen,” he said. “We feel the Environment Ministry has put off its responsibility onto mines and forestry and it’s not being the oversight that it should be.”

The province was unable to respond to questions before publication deadline.

The Energy and Mines Ministry is inviting public comment on the quarry expansion until Sept. 4, though Simmons acknowledges there isn’t much that hasn’t already been said over the past year.

“We’ve asked our membership to take it seriously, because we have to; it’s a governmental process and if they don’t receive information, then it will obviously not be considered, but it does feel like more of the same to me,” said Simmons.

[email protected]

>>> To comment on this article, write a letter to the editor: [email protected]